A slough of traffic woes

By Theresa Goffredo

Herald Writer

Just so you’re prewarned, the heat isn’t getting to you and you are not going crazy. This summer, Interstate 5 between Everett and Marysville will be more crowded.

That’s because the 12,000 or so motorists who use the Steamboat Slough bridge every day to go north won’t be able to when Department of Transportation officials close the Highway 529 bridge for up to 35 days.

The closure is tentatively scheduled to begin in mid-August. Commuters heading out of Everett to Marysville and other northbound destinations will be diverted to I-5.

"We won’t leave the public wondering where to go," Nabil Hamadeh, project engineer, said Monday. He said there won’t be any flaggers, just signs directing people to alternate routes.

"There will be signs at each necessary location to avoid confusing the motorists," Hamadeh said. "It’s well thought out and planned, and everybody will be informed."

Steamboat Slough bridge is being closed while engineers do major electrical and mechanical repairs. Painting crews have been working on the northbound bridge. They have been intermittently closing one of the two northbound lanes to try to complete the work.

"They are trying to do everything they can with one lane closure but there will come a time that they can’t continue unless the bridge is closed in its entirety," Hamadeh said.

The northbound lanes of Steamboat Slough bridge were scheduled to close this month. However, the subcontractor at the time, Pacific Aerospace &Electronics, wasn’t able to get the necessary mechanical parts to do the work, Hamadeh said.

Since then, a new subcontractor, Everett Engineering Inc., is "pursuing the issue very vigorously," to remain on schedule, Hamadeh said.

That schedule includes closing the southbound Steamboat Slough bridge on Highway 529 for 157 consecutive days — about 5 1/2months — starting in mid-January 2002.

When southbound Steamboat Slough bridge is closed, traffic will be routed to the northbound bridge through a detour. The northbound detour between the Snohomish River and Ebey Slough will have two lanes — one in each direction.

"There isn’t any other option for the northbound traffic but to divert to I-5," Hamadeh said, explaining this summer’s detour.

"On the positive side, the northbound closure is a lot shorter than the southbound."

The cost for repairs to the Highway 529 Steamboat Slough bridges is about $8 million, which includes minor mechanical repairs to the Ebey Slough bridge in mid-June 2002. During that five-day repair work, traffic crossing Ebey Slough will be reduced to one lane.

Engineers are hoping those mechanical repairs will solve a recurrent problem the 1936-era Ebey Slough bridge has been suffering. The bridge doesn’t always swing completely open or closed when marine traffic passes by and sometimes get stuck.

Instead of investing a lot of money to correct the problem, the bridge over Ebey Slough will be replaced by a fixed, four-lane concrete bridge, transportation officials have said.

The new bridge for Ebey Slough is estimated to cost between $12 million and $16 million, all paid for by the state, with construction to begin sometime in the summer of 2003.

You can call Herald Writer Theresa Goffredo at 425-339-3097

or send e-mail to goffredo@heraldnet.com.

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